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Some schools monitoring social media for cyberbullying threats

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As the popularity of social media grows, so does the problem of cyberbullying. Some schools are now monitoring students' social media accounts for threats that could spill over into the real world.

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Question: If someone twice your size calls you a bad name, what would you do? Would you A) call them a bad name to their face, or B) call them a bad name over the Internet?

If forced to pick, most people would say B. Why? Simple -- you can't get punched through a computer screen.

This type of thing happens every day all over the world. The sad part is when students see it online, 90 percent of them ignore it, according to internetsafety101.org.

Because of this horrifying statistic and others like it, I sat down with an administrator in the West Virginia school system to see just how often students are using social media sites for cyberbullying and talk about what her school is doing about it.

"Most of our conflicts start through social media," she said. "I don't have any social media accounts because it causes too much aggravation in my job. I don't really need one because other people send me potential issues either by calling me or coming to my house.

"If I receive a report at night of a potential threat, the next morning I meet [the students in question] at the bus. If someone gives me a report while here at school, I get them in the office immediately."

She said that for every one fight that happens at her school, 10 have been stopped because of her "proactive program for conflict resolution." With it, students are called to the office to discuss why they are fighting online before it escalates to a physical fight.

Cyberbullying is one of the biggest problems with social media sites. Let's look back to 2006 to the tragic story of Megan Meier, one of the earliest high-profile cyberbullying cases in the U.S.

Megan's 14th birthday was coming up, and she had passed out invitations to her birthday party. Later that day, she checked her MySpace account to see if there was any word from a boy she'd met there who she liked.

Instead, she found her "friends" had been posting bulletins about her, calling her a slut and fat. The last sentence she received on her account was "The world would be a better place without you."

That evening, Megan hung herself.

"Most users take advantage of social media. They say things on the computer that they wouldn't say to the person's face," said my source.

So, let this be a lesson. Social media sites are great for certain things, but don't get carried away on them. If you wouldn't say something to a person's face, don't say it over the Internet either. People are watching what you post on there, whether you know it or not.

You can read more of Megan's story at www.meganmeierfoundation.org.


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